Saturday, June 28, 2008

religion, sexuality, and guilt (part two)

a couple of months ago i was blessed with the opportunity to talk about my faith with a good buddy of mine who walked away from his faith for a number of reasons, one of which i believe was his sexuality. i am always grateful for the chance to talk with friends about my personal (!) relationship with God. i don't get many opportunities to talk about my faith with my gay friends mainly because of how much mainstream christianity has turned them away from God, so this conversation was definitely a God-thing. my friend asked me how i could reconcile the guilt aspect of christianity with my sexuality, and it took two rather long emails to give him a bare-bones explanation of where i stand. i divided the first email into three parts: guilt, sin, and same-sex attraction. here is part two, a continuation of part one.


if we go back to adam and eve (genesis 3) the first sin was an act of rebellion against God: by acting contrary to his commandment to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, adam and eve were symbolically proclaiming to God, "we can take care of ourselves better than you can take care of us." sin, then, as i see it, involves pride and selfishness; it is the act of putting ourselves above God and above the people around us, damaging our "vertical" relationship with God and our "horizontal" relationship with mankind.

my personal belief is that God wouldn't expect us to blindly think of something as being wrong without being able to understand why it is wrong. for example, anger is generally considered to be a sin, but it need not be. Jesus himself was so angry at the people that had turned the jewish temple into a marketplace that he took the time to make a whip and chase the people out (john 2:13-16) and he was sinless. the motive behind our actions is what counts. if i am dishonest to a friend to hide his surprise birthday party, have i sinned? should i seek forgiveness? what is my motive for lying? understanding the bible is the only way understand God's worldview, and why he would consider certain actions and behaviors to be sinful.

there are many aspects of engaging in a relationship with God that require faith, especially when it comes to the most controversial or difficult to understand concepts present in the bible, but believing that something is wrong should not require faith. is this man-centered theology, in which i rely more on the atributes of man to decipher God's truth, and elevate his wisdom above God's decrees?

i believe that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a knowledge of the scriptures we should be able to clearly state why a certain behavior is contrary to God's design without mindlessly regurgitating "it is wrong because it is in the bible." correctly attributing qualities of God to man is not raising man above God. after all, we are made in the image of God, and even in our current fallen state we retain some of God's character. this can clearly be seen in God's (post-fall) covenant with Abraham, in which he reiterates that man should not kill man because he is made in the image of God (genesis 9:6). we cannot claim to be completely evil, fallen, and morally unreliable if we believe that we are made in the image of God. by extension, we have the ability to discern why certain behaviors are wrong, and, again, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a knowledge of the scriptures, we can closely approximate an understanding of God's sovereign justice.

there is an intellectual aspect of christianity that is sorely lacking in today's churches, and this is why studying the bible is so crucial. merely relying on "for the bible tells me so" is irresponsible for the christian who seeks to be a disciple of God and who seeks to have a fully-functioning relationship with him. it belittles God's amazing and comprehensive truth to a set of rules. it is no wonder that when we approach unbelievers and accuse them of doing something the bible scorns, we are ridiculed. God's worldview should transcend the printed pages of a translation of the bible and be available to all. will all accept him as lord and savior? sadly, no. but, the choice that is accepting or rejecting God should ideally be done with the greatest of care, and we do a disservice to unbelievers when we cannot intelligently back up God's morality, which is crucial for understanding the concept of being a sinner and, through repentance, accepting God's forgiveness.

consider 1 corinthians 11:4-6 (NIV):

(4) every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. (5) and every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head - it is just as though her head were shaved. (6) if a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.

before we rush to buy head-coverings for the women in our lives because of something the bible says, the question we must first consider is: "why?" why is this in the bible? what purpose does this serve? the path to an answer will be rife with uncertainties, but if our faith holds any validity - if there is any truth to our belief in God - the process will surely bring us closer to him.


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